UK carriers set to get EU nod for mobile payments joint venture

By Peter Gothard
10 Jul 2012 View Comments

The mobile payments joint venture between Vodafone, O2 and Everything Everywhere is close to getting the green light from the European Commission, according to the Financial Times.

According to the FT, the telcos' Project Oscar will provide fully-featured mobile payment and e-wallet functionality for customers, with full backing from merchants, financial service retailers and banks.

The initiative is likely to build on previous developments by these companies in the mobile payment area, such as O2 Money's Wallet app, and Vodafone's similar contactless payment scheme that it unveiled in conjunction with Visa back in February.

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Such a provider-agnostic platform should prove popular with retailers, going some way towards allaying fears of a future mobile payment market dominated by a single company like Apple, which is reported to be looking at introducing a payment management system along with the Passbook e-wallet and contactless facilities of iOS 6.

Google, RIM and even are also currently operating, or planning, contactless payment solutions in a fast-moving market with all to play for.

In a recent interview with Computing, Visa Europe CTO Adam Banks shared his thoughts on the possibilities of a mobile network and contactless payment tie-up.

"Everybody's talked about mobile network operators as a threat for the last 10 years," said Banks. "They're not and they haven't been, [but] I think increasingly they will be."

Banks continued: "Maybe not for the next three to five years, because they've got to sort their standards out, but if you look at markets where mobile payment has really taken a huge leap forward, it's those markets where there's a single telco provider.

"They're going to have to agree standards with each other, in the same way banks did, before they're a real threat," concluded Banks. "But it's coming."

Standardising mobile payment by unifying providers could help to some order to what is an incearsingly fragmented industry, which is seeing a variety of providers, devices and hardware approaches to mobile payment and e-wallet offerings.

However, those left out in the cold – most glaringly the UK's fourth-largest mobile provider, Three – are likely to kick up a fuss if Project Oscar does indeed get the nod from EC regulators.

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